South West Queensland Trip Report
Follow That Bird Tours organised a trip to South-west Queensland 17-23 July to take advantage of the monsoonal rains that fell in the central parts of Queensland in the period March-May 2004. These rains sent water down the Warrego, Paroo and Bulloo Rivers that replenished the wetlands along the way and in the case of the Paroo River, the flood water made it all the way down to the junction with the Darling River near Wilcannia NSW. More recent rains fell in early July so ensuring reasonable seasonable conditions for this trip. We had fine weather throughout although the mornings were initially very cold but warmed up throughout the day. The trip started from Sydney and it was a very cold day, light snow was falling in the Blue Mountains as we were passing through and our lunch spot at Gulgong was bitterly cold. It rained on and off until we reached Warren where at the sewerage ponds we finally had some birds to see like Pinkears, Shovelers & Cattle Egrets. It was bitterly cold at Nyngan over-night so that our early morning walk there next morning was decidedly chilly. An immature King Parrot feeding in the street trees was possibly an escapee as we were well west of that birds usual range as was a lone Cattle Egret.
The real bird watching started at Byrock NSW, where Crested Bellbirds, Southern Whiteface, Red-capped & Hooded Robins and Spotted Bowerbirds were all very busy. At Bourke, we were never far from small groups of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos while at a location about 40 km N of Bourke, at a recently inundated Coolibah woodland wetland, Rufous Songlarks and Pallid Cuckoos were calling loudly and Chestnut-crowned Babblers and Brown Falcons were active! Our best find for that day was a single Bustard feeding near the edge of the road near the Thuragoona turnoff about 40 km south of Cunnamulla. We spent the next day at John & Julie Maclean's Bowna HSD, Cunnamulla which has recently received some good rains where Budgerigars, Zebra Finches, Diamond Doves and Crimson Chats were plentiful. An important sighting was the Grey-headed Honeyeater as well as other good birds like Little Woodswallows, Major Mitchell Cockatoos, Ground Cuckoo-shrikes, 3 Black Falcons and a male Black Honeyeater. Unlike Bowra, the Eulo area was much dryer and the area around Eulo Bore was positively droughtified still, about 50% of the Mulga was dead and there was no understorey left! However at a spot between Cunnamulla and Eulo where some recent rain was evident, there was a group of 5 Bustards, while not far away Hall's Babbler, Sitellas, Splendid Fairy-wrens were found and nesting Red-capped Robin & Chesnut-rumped Thornbills were seen.
Lunch at Bourke Wharf
with Red-tailed Black Cockatoos Circling
Alas Lake Bindegoley missed out on the floodwaters, in that only small area is under water, with water well south and north of the road bridge, however it has been raining there and a male Pied Honeyeater was doing a number of courtship displays near the road bridge; a pair of Brolgas were on the south lake and Wedgebill, Crimson Chat, yellow-billed Spoonbill, Chestnut-crowned babbler and Spotted Bowerbird were present and the stop was well worthwhile. Thargomindah on the Bulloo River was looking good, and the Napunyah Eucalyptus ochrophloia was in flower attracting many birds. Thousands of White-browed and lesser numbers of Masked Woodswallows were hawking insects and taking nectar from these trees along the river banks and depressions. In addition Noisy & Little Friarbirds, Blue-faced & White-plumed Honeyeaters were also taking the nectar, while on the grassy swales, Bourke's Parrots, Red-winged & Mulga Parrots & Crimson Chats were seen feeding in two locations, while Hobby, Brown Falcon, Black & Whistling Kites (with young) were active and Great Egret, White-necked & White-faced Herons were to be found in the river pools. Barking Owls were heard calling at night. New accommodation both cabins and motels are available in this beaut little town and the locals are very friendly.
Next day we set off for Hungerford and Currawinya NP and plenty of Wedge-tailed Eagles, parrots and babblers were seen along the way. At the village of Hungerford our morning tea was disrupted firstly by 2 Major Mitchell Cockatoos and then by an obliging pair of Black-breasted Buzzards which gave a great views! There was plenty of water in the Paroo River and in some of the lakes and depressions, but overall Currawinya NP was dry and it appeared to have missed out on some of the rain. We managed to pick up Inland Thornbill & Red-browed Pardalote in the Park for our list, but otherwise things were pretty quiet although more Budgerigars and Crimson Chats were seen. A pair of Brolgas were found just north of the Park enroute to Eulo.
Three nights were spent in Cunnamulla, so there were 3 early morning bird walks, mostly along the banks of the Warrego River. Nesting Whistling Kites were seen, a small flock of Plum-headed Finches were found, and Sacred Kingfishers were common both here at on Bowna HSD around the wetlands although none were calling. Royal & Yellow-billed Spoonbills, a Hobby, Peaceful Doves and Fairy & Tree Martins were all present. On our return trip we visited the Bourke STW where there was Musk Duck, 10 Shovelers, many Hardheads, Hoary-headed Grebe, Brown Goshawk & White-winged Fairy-wrens. Nyngan STW had similar birds but the day ended there with a group of 3 Brolgas flying over. We saw only a few Emus on the whole of trip, and these were confined to the area between Trangie and Nyngan in NSW. Our last main birding spot was at Geurie just east of Dubbo where we finally managed to locate a group of White-browed Babblers, the 4th babbler species for the trip!
Thargo to Hungerford
During the trip we saw 144 species which is good for a winter trip that had a number of very cold days and our raptor count was 93 Black Kite, 32 Whistling Kite, 2 Black-breasted Buzzard, 2 Collared Sparrowhawk, 1 Brown Goshawk, 23 Wedge-tailed Eagle, 23 Brown Falcon, 3 Hobby & 57 Kestrel. It was a good trip for raptors and everyone saw new species and the company, the food and the accommodation was terrific. (A full list of birds seen is available)
Cat in the Hat
our Guide Alan Morris